One of the themes with which I like to play in my stories is juxtaposition.
Trait (or character) juxtaposition can manifest in different ways. In the last big story I wrote (1 More Chance!), the heroine is a small-town girl who falls for a big-city boy. Nothing new, there…except she was the fighter (and the dominant) in this relationship, while her boyfriend filled the role of gentle artist (and submissive, for the most part). During the course of the story, though, they ended up changing roles depending on the situations that arose, and they learned you don’t have to be just one type of person or another. They grew together to trade off responsibilities and character traits, where warranted.
I prefer these relationships.
One of the aspects of “typical” romances that really bugs me is how women (seemingly) have to be powerful in business, money, skills, whatever, and then the man (usually) breaks them down into a damsel, for sake of the typical role fulfilment. When I wrote 1 More Chance!, I was dealing with pre-conceived characters, so I was thankfully able to ignore that. With Fearless, the situation is different.
I wanted Amber to be a strong woman. But I didn’t want to make her powerful. Part of what Ross (the main character and point of view) finds so alluring about her is that she’s audacious, worldly, and intrepid…but she’s still very much a girl. She likes clothes and shoes and wants to be pretty. She also wants to prove herself (and that gets her into trouble). But she isn’t someone who threatens or emasculates him, which is what I see many supposedly “strong” women characters do to men.
I’m perhaps playing into a more masculine mentality with this story, and that will likely alienate romance readers. But Amber as she is feels so true to me. I don’t want to make her a genius or a tough fighter or something else that feminism might demand me to do with her, to make her more modern.
And I really enjoy writing the role reversals that come with the conflict of the story. Not only does it show what Amber’s capable of…but it lets Ross grow, too.
I’m interested to see what my beta readers think of Ross and Amber (and the rest of the crew) when they get to reading it. Not that I think I’ll be willing to change who they are. Because I’m just stubborn like that.
What are your feelings on “strong” women?